Has South Africa Escaped Its Continents Poverty Trap?

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‘Think for a moment of development as chutes and ladders. In the modern world there are some fabulous ladders; most societies are using them. But there are also some chutes, and some societies have hit them. The countries at the bottom are an unlucky minority, but they are stuck.’ This is a quote from the book The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier during which he describes the poverty trap in which many African and Asian countries appear to be caught. If you asked many people where they considered the third world to be most would reply Africa. However within a continent can there be exceptions to the rule of the poverty trap? Has South Africa, the continents biggest economy, pulled itself out of the trap? South Africa’s GDP of $277,379 billion is nearly a quarter of its continents total GDP and ranks it 31st in the world above countries such as Finland. Added to this a growth rate of 4.6% in the first quarter of 2010 and it becomes possible to see that South Africa is economically growing. South Africa has the means to escape the poverty trap as it has 90% of the world’s platinum and copious quantities chrome and gold. At times when these metals are appreciating in price, it should help to pull or have pulled South Africa out of the trap. However with a GDP per capita of only $5,684, people in South Africa are still struggling to get by. Unemployment is at 24%, meaning 4 million people who would like jobs do not have them. Economically South Africa has the means to escape but has not yet utilised them and done so. It has been over 16 years since apartheid was brought to an end but the gulf between white and black, rich and poor still exists. In 2000, 50% of South Africa was living below the poverty line. Unemployment is 27.4% among black South Africans but only 4.1% amongst whites. On a social level, parts of South Africa have escaped poverty but in many parts such

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